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Photos: Synthetic marijuana bust near East High: Spice, cash seized

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Apparently marijuana isn't as easy for teens to get as pot opponents argue. Otherwise, would there be a market for spice, also known as synthetic marijuana?

Police believe the demand was high at a Sun Mart near East High School -- the site of a prominent bust in which investigators collected plenty of the stuff, along with cash, steroids and more.

Until recently, spice was legal in Colorado. But as municipalities across the country began banning the substance, Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp put his name on a bill to criminalize possession and distribution of what the legislation described as "synthetic cannabinoids," not synthetic marijuana. In an interview last March, Kopp described the latter term as a "misnomer of the highest order."

Some opponents of the legislation saw it as a stealth attack on medical marijuana, but Kopp denied it, pointing to a line that read, "Synthetic cannabinoids shall not be considered medical marijuana under Colorado law." He maintained that spice "behaves substantially differently in a person's brain, and it absolutely should be seen as a controlled substance. There's a charade that has taken place, and frankly, it's a pretty dangerous one, where spice is sold as incense. But it's sprayed with any of five different kinds of chemicals. The odd thing is, none of these chemicals add any odor whatsoever. The only thing they do is serve to produce a high that has landed kids in the hospital with violent hallucinations."

With a pitch like this, it's no wonder Kopp's bill passed, with the measure becoming law in July. But there haven't been any major spice busts since then -- until now.

According to the Denver Police Department, officers received complaints that the Sun Mart, at 2405 East Colfax, was offering spice along with the usual array of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and motorhead magazines. A month long investigation followed, and after the cops obtained information they say indicated spice sales to members of the general public, including East students, they were granted a search warrant they executed on Wednesday. What did they find? The DPD reveals that detectives seized approximately twelve pounds worth of spice -- 6,400 grams of it. In addition, they collected over $36,000 in cash that's alleged to have come from sales of spice "brands" including the Kobe Bryant tribute Black Mamba. As a bonus, the Denver Post reports, cops stumbled upon 100 steroid tabloids that one of the suspects said were for "working out." Also photographed and documented were digital scales, rolling papers and plenty of glass pipes. They couldn't be seized, since such products can be used as legal products. But in its release about the raid, the DPD calls them "suspected drug paraphernalia...which are utilized on the street to smoke marijuana, crack cocaine and methamphetamine."

Along the way, Maher Awad, the store's owner and manager, and a clerk, Abdelilah Dehry, were fitted with handcuffs and arrested on suspicion of the sale and distribution of synthetic cannabinoids. Their booking photos are below.

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More from our News archive: "Spice is not synthetic marijuana, but it is risky, says Rep. Mike Kopp, sponsor of HB 134 ban."

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